UFC

Benson Henderson: "If Pettis is out, give the best to me"

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Pettis will fight again at the end of the year (©GettyImages)
Pettis will fight again at the end of the year (©GettyImages).

Benson Henderson has called out to the UFC, telling them that the top lightweight contenders should be sent to him, if champion Anthony Pettis is going to hold up the division.

Henderson lost the UFC Lightweight Championship to Pettis back in August of last year, but the new champ picked up a knee injury that sidelined him for a few months and now won't fight until the end of the year due to signing on for The Ultimate Fighter 20.

As for Hendo, he fights for the second time this year this weekend, when he faces Rustam Khabilov at UFC Fight Night 42 and Pettis' delay has frustrated him just as much as it has fans.

"You know me, man, I don't like to talk crap, I respect everybody," Henderson told the Great MMA Debate podcast when asked about Pettis' absence from the division. "You can not fight for two years and still have the belt -- what does it mean? What does it mean if you have the belt for five years and you defend it one time? What does that really mean?

"It's not about talk, it's not about saying this guy's the best, that guy's the best, and people's opinions and rankings. It's about what happens inside the Octagon. Who goes out there and puts it down. I'm always going to be doing that.

"Title or not, whether I have the championship belt or I don't, if you have the championship what does that mean? It means you're fighting the best people. If the belt's not being defended and you're not fighting the top people, give those top people to me. I'll take it. I'll do the job without the belt."

Henderson's frustrations are understandable. Pettis' first defence against GIlbert Melendez will be around 16 months after he won the title and in that time frame, Henderson could win three or four fights.

With two career losses to Pettis, one in the WEC and one in the UFC, Henderson will have to prove himself multiple times over and with new contenders emerging in Khabib Nurmagomedov and Michael Johnson, it's only going to be harder to get another shot at the title while Pettis is champion.

That means Henderson could still be a year away from another shot, which gives plenty of time for other fighters to catch up and that's if Pettis stays healthy. For Henderson though, the longer Pettis is out, the more opportunity for him to prove himself as the best in the division.

"As the belt holder, the positive thing about being the belt holder is you get a higher pay, you're known as the champ, but what really matters is you're fighting the best people. I want to fight the best people. I want to be the best fighter on the planet." Henderson said.

"To do that I have to fight the best. If I'm going to fight three times a year and the belt holder's not going to fight three times a year, I want to fight all the best people. So while he can take a long a break as he wants, give all those best people to me still. So I'm still fighting the best people."

So far Henderson has kept true to his word. He defeated #3 ranked Josh Thomson back in January and when he faces off against #11 ranked Khabilov this weekend, he will have stopped yet another rising challenger.

The big challenge that he could run into at some point this year is Nurmagomedov. The 22-0 Dagestani fighter is ranked #4 by the UFC, but is tipped for huge success and if Henderson wins this weekend, a number one contender's bout on the undercard of Pettis-Melendez would be a fantastic way to finish the year for the UFC and the lightweight division.

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Topics:
Benson Henderson
UFC
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